Vaccines Supply Chain Challenges Include Maintaining Right Temperature During Transport

By  //  October 19, 2018

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Did you know that many developing countries suffer from vaccines supply chain challenges that result in more than a million preventable lost lives and hundreds of millions of dollars wasted each year?

Did you know that many developing countries suffer from vaccines supply chain challenges that result in more than a million preventable lost lives and hundreds of millions of dollars wasted each year?

If you live in a developed country where getting vaccines is as easy as taking your child to the doctor or popping into your local pharmacy, you’ve probably never thought about the fact that a lack of medical logistics solutions leads to nearly 20 million infants around the world who don’t receive all of their vaccinations. Let’s discuss the impact of vaccines supply chain challenges and what improvements need to be made with the system.

What is a vaccines supply chain?

Have you ever wondered how Amazon can get products to your door within two days, while other companies struggle to get their products to you within a week? The reason Amazon is so efficient is that they have a large, well-managed supply chain around the United States. They have 75 fulfillment centers around North America where just about anything you might want to buy waits to be boxed up, taken by a delivery company, then sped to your city and dropped off at your door.

A vaccines supply chain is more complicated. The vaccines must stay at just the right temperature while they travel around the world to remote locations where UPS doesn’t deliver and refrigeration is unreliable.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO): “The role of the supply chain is to ensure effective vaccine storage, handling, and stock management; rigorous temperature control in the cold chain; and maintenance of adequate logistics management information systems. The ultimate goal is to ensure the uninterrupted availability of quality vaccines from manufacturer to service-delivery levels, so that opportunities to vaccinate are not missed because vaccines are unavailable.”

Cold chain difficulties

The trickiest part of the vaccines supply chain is maintaining a proper cold chain. Most vaccinations need to be kept at a temperature of 2-8° C (35.6-46.4° F) from the time they are manufactured until they are used.

This can be a huge problem in rural areas of developing countries where electricity can be unreliable at best. Vaccines are often delivered to their final destinations in coolers with ice packs, which can cause the vaccines to freeze and become unusable or the label to degrade or fall off. Coolers filled with ice packs are also an inefficient way to transport vaccinations to rural locations.

Impacts of poor vaccines supply chains

Poor vaccines supply chains result in lost lives and lost money. An estimated 19.4 million children around the world don’t receive all of their vaccinations each year. Of those, 1.5 million children will die from a vaccine-preventable disease. 

Wasted doses of vaccines also cost hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

According to Intellectual Ventures Laboratory: “Approximately 35% of the global polio eradication campaign expenditures are for vaccine purchases annually. At 14.6 cents a dose, the two billion doses of Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) purchased each year totals over $270 million. Almost 40% of these vaccine doses are wasted each year during vaccination efforts, almost one in two!”

That’s more than $100 million per year wasted on just one vaccine. Now multiply that by the number of vaccines being distributed around the world and you have a mind-boggling number.

Beyond that, vaccines provide a measurable economic benefit. For every $1 spent on delivering and administering vaccines, up to $16 is returned in economic benefit.

Vaccines supply chain solutions

There are many different solutions to the problems with vaccines supply chains.

One solution, as described in this video, involves developing vaccines that can spend up to three days outside the cold chain while being delivered and still maintain efficacy. The Controlled Temperature Chain (CTC) could allow more usable vaccines to be delivered and used rather than wasted.

Other solutions include using more solar-powered refrigerators in locations with unreliable electricity and encouraging governments to update their vaccines supply chain to run more efficiently.

ABOVE VIDEO: The Controlled Temperature Chain, CTC, is an innovative approach to vaccine management allowing vaccines to be kept at temperatures outside of the traditional cold chain of +2°C to +8°C for a limited period of time under monitored and controlled conditions, as appropriate to the stability of the antigen.


Vaccines supply chain challenges are costing millions of lives and hundreds of millions of dollars, but solutions are on the horizon. As nonprofit foundations and governments work together, lives can be saved around the world.


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